To those of you wondering: what is next, where is the next blog, I can tell you:
He is not here, he is transferred indeed, to the blog for his summer internship:
To those of you wondering: what is next, where is the next blog, I can tell you:
He is not here, he is transferred indeed, to the blog for his summer internship:
Leaving behind some great friends
Now, do not get me wrong – I had a lot of fun with many of my friends in New Haven, and for those who will be staying there for additional school or folks I met who live in CT outside of New Haven – I will miss them greatly. They were the most immediate source of aid and comfort in the face of often finding coursework and daily life experiences with the rudeness of New Havenites – and I am deeply thankful for their presence.
Plus, they gave me excuses and dining partners for outings to the various delicious restaurants around the city:
For the ways in which “technology can really ruin people’s ability to be truly present with one another” can sometimes sound like a valid concern, it will be that self-same technology which allows me to continue to cultivate and enjoy friendships forged over as many as 3 years – and that is a wonderful thing.
No end in sight/packing up the remainder of my crap
So, as mentioned in the previous post, the afternoon after commencement was meant to be packing whirlwind, but it turned into a much-needed 12 hour coma for myself and my visiting family.
It is a damned good thing we did so, too… because even in the face of weeks (in fact more than a year, as I used the space in my car to bring home stuff every time I have gone home since May 2013) of packing and preparation, the amount of crap we had to box, bag, and otherwise defenestrate was astonishing.
Sure, it is true that I was in the same house in DC for nearly 4 years and had accumulated a lot of stuff there (and I am a camper and a builder/fixer, so much of it was useful gear)… so that all got moved up north in 2011, and then I added 3 New Haven years of crap to it (again, mostly useful stuff… just bulky).
It was a hell of a long day, with our intentions starting at “it should take about 4 hours, we can depart at noon or so and drive part of the way to our respective destinations” and eventually arrived at “well, we just packed for 8.5 hours, Michael is passing out standing up.”
I went to Bob’s to pick up the trailer, and again recognized how tired I was, and also how unsafe it is to drive while exhausted… but even less safe to tow a trailer in the darkening evening.
I spoke to Bob and was able to secure a bed in their guest room to sleep for the night, and I cannot overstate how important this was to my (eventual) safe passage south to Maryland. I slept deeply and departed on Wednesday (rather than Tuesday), and did the trip in one fell swoop.
For more on the arrival and continuing story of my time in Maryland, please see the blog I put together for that experience, at this link.
The setting of New Haven. and (happily) moving away from it
The number of gang shootings and drug violence in my immediate neighborhood (some of which can be seen here) was a serious part of my time in New Haven – something like 21 or 22 instances of shots fired in 3 years, within 5 houses of mine. This is besides the more “typical” crimes experienced by Yale students – down around the university, muggings are a common experience, and not where I lived (after all, I lived in the poor part of town so no one had money on them to be stolen).
Crime is not a new experience for my living situation, but I will tell you what really wore me down the most – the rudeness and generally aggressive-paired-with-frustration that came forth from many of the people I interacted with in New Haven… particularly while driving. In a serious way I am thankful for 3 years spent in the area, 2 of which involved a lot of driving – I was always a decent driver, but I am at a place in my life where NYC is “just an annoyance to be avoided” as opposed to the stressful bugbear of past-Mike’s outlook on driving. Through this crucible I became a better driver, and indeed the crucibles abounded in and around New Haven.
Thankful as I am for all the good and for the bad experiences turned into good lessons learned, I was more than ready to get out by the time the semester ended and I headed south.
Final thoughts on school
I have always loved Calvin & Hobbes, and this one comic captures many of my thoughts about the academy in general, after a good 8 years trapped in it:
Critical thinking and carefully examining the problems of our world are vital aspects of any well-lived life – but the number of times I have watched the sinking ship of “a conversation with relevance to the real world” from a lifeboat, as my peers would continue the quibbling that sunk the ship of relevance in the first place… was too many for me to bear. I was way ready to get out of the academy more than 2 years ago, even – but I stuck it out, and for many reasons (the lessons learned in class, the lessons learned about how not to act or live by observing other people, and most importantly: nearly full coverage of my shoulder surgeries and physical therapy all made this waiting game worth it). I am deeply thankful for the opportunities I had at Yale, but it simply wasn’t a good fit for me in many ways because, frankly, I dislike obfuscation and prefer action to pontification.
There are a lot more things I could say about this place, but suffice to say: I took the advice of a YDS peer long ago and always assumed good intentions in the words, throughts, and deeds of my Yale Divinity peers – as everyone up there, so far as I could tell, had their hearts genuinely in the right place. Just, too often did someone offer their politics instead of their religious convictions (if any, a complex issue at YDS as I experienced it) – and just like in church in real life, I didn’t come to hear about a person’s politics, I came to hear a religious message. I got some of the religious insights and training I sought, often from unexpected sources, but at the end of the experience I am so deeply, truly grateful to be moving back out into the real world and out of the bubble of seminary (which, to be fair, is a reality about most seminaries, being a bubble).
I think, if you go back and read through this blog, you’ll see that I moved over time further and further into projects and camping trips because 1) they were in the real world and away from the bubble; and 2) they were constructive actions, as opposed to the academy’s tendency to deconstruct everything with a nauseating smugness and then offer no solutions whatsoever. My mind and body were ready to depart, and now departed I am (save for the summer’s internship, which due to my fighting for it, will be physical labor- and project-heavy… as rehabilitation after so long in the academy).
Glad to have gone, but more glad to have finished and now to be gone, it seems.
Thanks for reading the blog!
To those folks who have followed my blogged time in New Haven and at Yale Divinity School, I can quote unto you the message I painted on the basement stairs over 2 years ago:
Family and friends
For the terminal days of my New Haven time in life, my parents and brother were able to make it out from our home in northeast Ohio (my sister was on week 3 of her new job, her first salaried gig after graduating college, so she rightfully stayed home and kept her new job!). My parents took a few days of work off, and drove down with a U-Haul trailer to whisk away most of my crap to the house, for my later perusal.
I owe my parents a lot for the entirety of my life and their support throughout; and my brother for his friendship and then being willing to walk up and down the big hill with the Divinity School, to take photos with my camera (even though he was rather banged up from the Mudder)! More generally, it was just fantastic to be with my family again after having last been home in March – and so with their arrival Sunday night, it was officially time to Gradumicate.
Marching down town for the Overall Yale Event
The first event of the day was the gathering of all of Yale’s various undergrad and grad schools, to the largest quad on Old Campus, to have the deans each approach the president of Yale to get the Yale Corporation’s approval for the graduating process to come. The Divinity School processed down the hill, led by some sort of elderly hippies with drums and tamborines, and the intended joyous spirit (which caught up some of our peers) also looked really unprofessional and out of place at Yale’s graduation to outsiders:
Thankfully, I walked with friends like Chris, who share a very suspicious opinion (at best) of the sorts of choices like the above, made by many of our peers from YDS in representing YDS.
Instead, Chris and I are of the church of the Batman:
We were seated on the quad according to when each school was founded – and given that Yale was founded as a seminary, we had the best seats in the house – both for the actual stage and then for the largest screen in the quad, so we could see details of the Yale-King’s actions:
The best part of the whole experience down town, in my opinion, was when an honorary doctorate was given to Ralph Stanley, a very frail elderly man who was a key player in the development of bluegrass in this country for some 50 years. As the president reached the end of his brief bio, the School of Music players and their dean began to softly play on a banjo and accompanying music, and the volume got louder for a brief bit of time – and it really seemed to touch Stanley’s heart, and had a similar effect on the assembled crowd.
Our seatmates behind us were school of architecture folk, who had all sorts of angry atheist things to say when there was an invocation, benediction, and three separate hymns sung – but as the school is older than the United States, it is unlikely those traditions will change any time soon.
The Divinity School’s smaller gradumacashun
We hiked our way back up the hill (with some of our peers and indeed the faculty stopping at the ubiquitous food carts to get food prior to the next event), and eventually processed up to the chairs set out in the quad before the Marquand Chapel.
We were rather blessed to have such lovely weather, albeit slightly windy – but it made a beautiful setting for a much-anticipated end to this chapter of my life.
Eventually, I got to walk my way up those steps and shake hands with the dean, to get my photo taken and have officially walked at Commencement #313 for Yale…
… but, given that my summer of 2014 will be spent doing my internship requirement for the Master of Divinity degree (as the Fall 2013/Spring 2014 internship I had set up ended up falling apart because of my shoulder injury and the accompanying surgeries and healing), I got a slightly different piece of paper in my sleek Yale-branded folder:
Can you tell which one is mine, above, if you didn’t read the names?? 🙂
A lovely day, all told
As the afternoon deepened, I realized how exhausted I was, and I knew my family was as well from their trip – and we were also all rather hungry!
I said some goodbyes to my closest friends of the past three years, and slowly made my way down to the sidewalk and thus towards the car.
I wanted to take my family to Plan B Burger in Milford, a place I have referenced here before, and we went forth and had a delicious meal indeed. During the course of the meal, the 2 months without a break finally hit me and I realized – the afternoon spent packing my remaining belongings I had planned was simply not viable.
What did the House of Repas do, then?
We had a great meal, and all vacated New Haven for their hotel, wherein we all passed out by 6:45pm and slept through until 7am or so, to prepare us for the (longer than expected, it turned out) day of packing ahead.
All told, then, I am very thankful to have had the opportunities I had and the like, but (as I shall explore in the post after this one), the school and town alike were not especially good fits for me – so graduation day, even if only to get my official-looking Yale Divinity School IOU “degree,” was a happy day indeed – a day to celebrate the good things received and learned over three years, but especially to celebrate the end of one chapter of life and the start of the next!
Getting a great deal
(Editor’s note: this post is going live some 2 weeks after the fact, because the last portion of my time in New Haven was simply too busy for me to compose this before now!)
In February or March, it occurred to me that it would be 1) a lot easier to move; 2) a lot easier to do farmwork in Maryland for my internship; and 3) prepare me for years of utility and capacity ahead.
I knew that Harbor Freight is at times a great place to purchase tools and gear – they claim to offer the best deals on great gear, and while their prices are always very low… the quality of what they sell isn’t especially compelling in some cases.
That said, I did a hell of a lot of research over months, looking into whether or not their trailer kits could be trusted – and what I found was, a resounding yes IF you properly clean and repack with grease the ball bearings in the wheel hubs. Which I did, very carefully, as per below.
My good friend Syed helped me find out that HF was going to hold a sale on Easter Sunday, for 25% off of one item. The specific store I went to didn’t have any in stock, they gave me a voucher to get the sales price after the day once they were back in stock… and I ended up getting the kit from the New Haven store.
Building the trailer
My good friend Bob is a retired Marine and retired police officer, who is working security for Yale Law School – and over the 16 odd months I did IT there, I often helped Bob with various IT problems which arose. He had told me about the garage he had, where he likes to fix cars – and when I mentioned the trailer, Bob jumped at the chance to help me out with a project before I departed New Haven! Thus, once I finished the last final of my academic career (thank Jesus it is over), I dove into working as many hours at the Law School as I could, while also working on the trailer after shifts ended.
Over several nights and weekends, Bob and I (and his visiting older brother Eddy, at times) worked to put together the metal frame, to prepare for the decking and side walls. I decided to do 2 foot tall walls, making use of the slots in the steel frame as to ensure they are stable when in place but also make their removal a non-issue. We used pressure treated lumber for the deck and uprights, to make sure they last as long as possible – and then I painted the side panel plywood prior to assembly.
I found a special set of interlocking corner hardware for trailers, and then a set of super heavy duty Tacoma pickup truck bed D-rings, as the other modifications I did on the trailer. The corner hardware got put onto the side walls and they do an excellent job of holding the walls very steadily in place, even at speed. The D-rings were drilled into the outside edges of the frame, as to allow for tie-down points when I have the walls removed and am transporting heavier or larger items such as 4×8 plywood (as opposed to the lighter duty door handles I put onto the deck for internal tie-down points).
Ready to go!
After a great deal of work, the trailer was ready to go – and my best intentions were to take it home to New Haven from Bob’s garage, load it completely for the Maryland trip, and then return it to Bob’s locking garage for safe storage until the moment of my departure south. I did indeed do that, and in retrospect am VERY glad I did so!
The concert(s) trip, an overview
More than 3 months ago, my good friend Andrew told me about a metal concert in April, Paganfest 2014 in Baltimore. He got tickets and we planned THAT early to go forth and be metalheads with some other friends as well.
So, when my friend Veronica mentioned to me, out of the blue, “want to go see Bruce Springsteen in Raleigh North Carolina” the night before I was going to depart for DC anyways, I realized: I couldn’t NOT see these two concerts in the same weekend, the range of music was too good to pass up.
Springsteen & visiting Amber, in Raleigh NC
So the first part of the trip was adventuring down to Williamsburg to pick up my friend Vero and her friend Alex, but I began with a quick refresher tour of the colonial encampment (having been there back in high school):
It was a lovely day, and after SO much driving (though just an appetizer of the SO MUCH DRIVING to come, this past weekend ), it was quite nice to be out and about on foot.
Additionally, some of you may remember a prior post on this blog about wanting to buy land in Virginia after school. Even walking around people in petticoats and tourists, the setting and blazing sun suitable to solar power my way to free utilities forever was VERY tempting anew….
Nice to stretch, but back into the car we went, in order to drive down to our hotel as to attend the…
Bruce Springsteen concert @ Raleigh, NC
Our arrival was around 5pm or so, and thus we had time to 1) check into our hotel; 2) drive over and park at the PNC Arena; 3) a scrumptious dinner (in my case, shrimp and cheddar + jalapeno grits, BBQ baked beans, and a clam chowder, all out of this world!) at the Backyard Bistro across the street from the Arena; and then 4) jaywalking/jayrunning back to the parking lot and then into the stadium for the concert:
The concert venue was so huge and the lighting fluctuated so much that 1) no camera phone photo of the interior was worth a damn, and 2) my DSLR was disallowed to be brought inside, so I have no photos of the actual event.
Bruce was quite the entertaining performer, with his E Street Band – for a 64 year old guy, he was RUNNING around all over the place, and generally having a great time. The people in the crowd definitely got their money’s worth, as people were dancing and clapping and screaming the whole time – and he was soaking it up.
Astonishingly, Bruce performed from 7:30pm until 11pm or so, without an intermission… I myself departed at 9:45 or so, to go visit my good friend and former housemate Amber. Between her having worked all day and my having driven a shitzillion miles, we were both exhausted, but we shared some wine and caught up at a local bar in Raleigh prior to calling it a night. Back to the hotel I went, as another long day of driving was ahead of me.
All told, even though I am not the biggest Springsteen fan (as in, I enjoy his music but he is not a go-to for me, typically), it was the biggest concert I have ever been to and a fun experience.
METAL and (very) old friends, from Yorktown VA to Baltimore MD
The remainder of the weekend, though, was pretty goddamned metal \m/
After dropping Vero and Alex back to their places in Williamsburg, I then departed for…
Yorktown, both historic and Tonyish
My friend Tony was at a lecture, so I actually visited one of the few major colonial sites I had not yet encountered: the Yorktown battlefield.
Departing the battlefields, I went to my friend Tony’s house, a little down the street, and we got to hang out and catch up with our mutual friend David for a few hours before going up to Arlington.
Tony showed us his family’s home, which they planned and built significant portions of themselves (which made my DIY heart sing with joy). My favorite parts were the gazebo in the back (seen below) which Tony put in himself, the huge raised bed gardens, and their theater room (something I hope to emulate in some way when I have my own home).
We talked and realized the following:
1) David and I had met playing DotA on the internet, back when we were 15 or 16
2) David thought I was funny, so wanted to get me in on playing with Andrew and Tony
2b) the first several games with them, I did *awful* but they thought I was a nice and funny guy, so we stayed friends
3) David and I ended up both going to American University and in fact met in person serendipitously at an orientation event
4) I ended up meeting and hanging out with Andrew and Tony many times thereafter
It is crazy that some of my best friends for more than a decade all originated from a random matchmaking queue for a computer game, and I was glad to remember those details after so long.
After huge helpings of Tony’s mom’s delicious foodstuffs, we departed for Arlington through some SERIOUS rainstorms.
Helping buddies in Arlington
Arriving at Andrew’s old house, we did some packing and moving of his things to his new place, because that is what buddies are for/it was his birthday week/his sedan don’t hold so much.
We had some DELICIOUS Korean fried chicken, from a restaurant called Bonchon, and it was absurdly delicious. After that, it was time to coma our way into restfulness for the next day’s activities.
As it WAS Andrew’s birthday weekend, Tony’s mom had made him a DotA-themed cake, and I managed to get a photo both of his genuinely joyful reaction (very rare, for him), and the cake itself:
All told, it was a pleasure to help Andrew move into his new place and hang out with those guys – not least of all because his overpriced Arlingtonian apartment building was quite nice on the eyes:
The concert in Baltimore
The main event, then, and the core reason for this whole trip, was to go to Paganfest 2014 – a heavy metal concert with mostly folk and Viking themed bands, which was quite enjoyable. The venue in Baltimore was the Ottobar, which wasn’t the biggest or nicest establishment ever… but the bands made up for it. We got to see Ohio’s Winterhymn, Germany’s Varg (with songs where the lead singer introduced it as “this next one is about mercilessly killing your worst enemy on the battlefield), Taiwan’s Chthonic; (my favorite) Finland’s Turisas; and Finland’s Korpiklaani.
From the local band whose drummer WAS Jesus:
To the unending goofiness of folk bands in general:
To the fun and lively performances:
The concert was a lot of fun – and the people at metal concerts are always fun(ny) in their own ways – from guys with longer and better-kept hair than their girlfriends; to people wearing tunics and carrying drinking horns, to the shirts from all sorts of other metal concerts, definitely a grand time.
At trip’s end
After sleeping very soundly from a long day with buddies, our time had run out, and we were forced to head off towards our respective responsibilities. At the end of a delicious Lebanese lunch, we departed from Arlington – a quick photo of all of us at once, as evidence, and we were off!
All told, a whirlwind of driving and visiting, but an excellent long weekend away from New Haven. I am very thankful to have such great and gracious friends.
The weeks ahead
So by way of general updates, consider the following:
1) I am working again at my old Yale Law School job, and will be for this week and next week.
2) I purchased a trailer from HarborFreight, with the Easter sale coupon they told me I could use after the fact, and will be building it to help with the move down to Maryland for the summer – and I am super excited about this!! More on this once I build the damned thing.
3) The housemate whose name shall go unmentioned, the one who plays violin at 2 and 3am, and lets his guinea pigs make a mess in communal areas and never cleans it up, and so much more… was legally evicted mid-April. Sadly, the law is on his side so he has to be gone by or before May 17, a full 30 days later. But there shall be MUCH rejoicing when his disrespectful, unhygienic ways are no longer on the premises.
Between that guy; the “oh a stray pit bull followed me home and I am going to keep it” guy; the 40 year old law degree’d girl who decided against getting a job and then took out her depression on me via passive-aggressive bullshit 6 miles high; and others, I have definitely had more than my fair share of INSANETRAIN housemates. I am thankful for those other housemates, who were amongst my best friends in 3 years here… but overall have learned I will need to live by myself or with people I know and trust from the outset, because INSANETRAIN housemate roulette is shit.
4) I am so, so very excited to be entering the professional realm in a few short months – so keep an eye out for posted updates about job opportunities I am applying for! Also, the projects to come, once I have an income, will include things like this fantastic converted Range Rover into a pickup truck spotted in Baltimore over the weekend:
After installing the summer Borbet wheels (which were both thrown in for free by the previous owner, which is a crazy good deal for me; AND which were given a great deal on new Hankook Ventus 2 tires and so forth thanks to my wallet-destroying friend, Tom) on the street in front of my house… and being lucky enough that the trucker’s warning triangles I once bought cheaply from Craigslist were sufficient enough to keep cars away, I packed the
car BATTLEWAGON and was ready to go!
With my good friend and fellow student Nathan, who will be living and working alongside me in this house over the summer, we departed YDS at 4pm or thereabout.
I cannot fully believe it myself, but 3 long and not always fun years in New Haven and at Yale can consider their days numbered – this trip was the harbinger of an escape less than two months away. Even less credible, but also true: we hit a total of 27 minutes of traffic, on I-95 south in NYC, before the George Washington Bridge, and otherwise had smooth sailing all the way. Fantastic, hard to believe, and a good start to a great weekend. We arrived at Nathan’s parents’ home in MD, and quickly passed out after a long day.
The visitation of DC and VA friends
I set aside Friday to go down and make a pilgrimage to places where I knew old friends still exist, and also to visit my prior institution, American University.
Between juggling attempted visits with professors and old friends, my initial stop by AU in the morning was just good for grabbing photos of a couple of these iconic views it was (surprisingly) good to see, again.
That said, I stopped by the school later in the afternoon after a lengthy lunch with friends, and visited with both a former roommate who know works in the AU public safety department; and one of my favorite professors of computer science, who showed me his newest craze – quadcopters. A lot of fun was had, and I look forward to further visitations with those folks and others over the lengthy summer!
The lunchtime hour(s) was spent catching up with my good friends Deb and Kim, whom I met and toiled alongside at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, in January 2013 – we were all prospective diaconal ministers, and in the midst of a grueling schedule, we got to become great friends. As one might imagine, and in spite of possible height differentials making direct conversation difficult (as per below), we had a fantastic time and a delicious meal at Silverado.
I drove something like 75 miles within DC and northern VA in a single day, and that was enough for me – after a good 12 or 13 hours away from Nathan’s folks’ house, I drove back and again fell into a blissful, deep sleep. As my time at home in Ohio a few weeks ago, for spring break, made clear to me: the benefits for mood, outlook, disposition, and body tension levels that I find from being away from negative settings (for instance, the latest disrespectful toxic housemate I am stuck with; the gang shootings around my house in New Haven, and the academic setting at YDS in general). Even as a stanger in the strange land of Laurel, MD, I slept like the dead and it was great. I fully suspect this sort of healthy, non-tense and indeed edifying experience of passing living in southern Maryland versus CT will continue for the whole summer, and I cannot overstate my thankfulness for and excitement about that.
The farm, the house, the joy
Saturday was The Main Event: first driving the 2 hours further south, to Saint Mary’s City MD – the historical landing site for the Catholic colonists who petitioned for a patch of land in the New World where they could worship (as Catholics were disallowed from worshipping in England at the time), in 1634. As the original state capital, it was a place which would remain small and agricultural up until and then after the point when the capital was moved to Annapolis – and this trend continues today. One of the peculiar aspects of living in “the county” (which is how everyone I met referred to the area), one will encounter a wide swathe of people whose family has owned the very expensive land they own since the 1640s… but who have no liquidity. It is our hope, through directly donating crops grown and also teaching how easy/cheap/healthy it is to grow one’s own food in the plentiful soil of the area, to help directly improve the lives of the surprising number of hungry in the area.
As you see in the two photos above, the setting around the house is extremely rural and empty (this is a siren song to my ears, tired as they and I are of the urban shitshow of New Haven). Below you can see the house from front and back, prior to the lead paint on the outside being scraped and replaced for our arrival at the end of May:
My bedroom is a lighter shade of green than my current New Haven home, and is a mere 120 by 144 inches, which is not a large space – but honestly, a part of my attempting to learn and grow this summer is in the key of “don’t bring too much, do too much, or worry too much” – so besides Ike and his house, my clothes, computer, and camping gear, I will not be bringing anything more. Such a small space ought to be entirely sufficient!
If memory serves, this little brown house is over 110 years old, and various portions of it are in different stages of being renovated for us; one of the finished areas is the kitchen, which looks lovely:
The members of the parish have already indicated a certain kind of excitement in helping us to furnish this building and make it a home and a house of hospitality and prayer; all told, then the housing angle of this summer couldn’t be any more wonderful!
Trinity Episcopal Church and Saint Mary College
Beyond the farming portion of the summer, I will be working with and learning from Pastor John Ball of Trinity Episcopal church, and that will involve several additional responsibilities. One of them will be preaching to both of the congregations in the parish (there is the main church building, seen below, and then a small chapel down the road with a commited, small set of older folks who live near and worship there).
Another project I know of from the very beginning will be helping manage, fundraise, and generally effect the cause of saving Church Point: a sandy small peninsula into the river off from where the church and the college is located, it has lost several yards of sand and sediment to the water since 1950 or so. The below photo shows the cross on the sand again, only because a big tractor was brought down to drag it 50 or so feet onto the now-shrunk shore. It will be like my Eagle Scout project days again, in many ways – but now with a certain kind of authority as “oh, that seminary intern guy”!
There will be many other projects ahead, but now all I can think about is my excitement to getting down there and settled into a healthy set of routines in a great little house with my good friend and classmate Nathan.
Excited beyond belief for this coming summer?
From delicious views and weather, to delightful locals and lands, I cannot think of anything about this summer which doesn’t have the capacity to be outstanding right out of the gate. Just in terms of measuring “average number of weekly gang violence within 2-3 blocks of my house”, I can already guarantee that this will be a more peaceful, wholesome, and edifying experience than New Haven. The nature of living with non-students, and outside of the bubble of seminary (it is not, to be fair, just YDS that has this – seminaries in general tend to become bubbles in so many ways), I rejoice at the chance to make lasting friendships with “real people” so to speak, people with mortgages, and debt, and jobs, and families… and people who DON’T babble about theory and minutia without any real life experience to back up their pontificating. (For reference, the preceding sentences of critique of my Yale/New Haven setting were GREATLY edited down, in terms of lengths and crass vulgarities).
In short, then: my summer internship in Saint Mary’s City, Maryland, is going to be a peaceful, edifying, educational, and positive experience to finish the last requirement to get my degree from Yale. I will be doing a blog specific to the summer, and I greatly encourage you to take a look once it is posted and running, later in May.
For now, back to the grind to finish this semester.
The hike out to the car, and DOGSLEDS!
The morning was CONSIDERABLY warmer than even the night before, and I regret to admit: I had left my camera in the car the night before, to minimize weight as I hiked 2.5 miles to the tent, because I was exhausted.
And so I missed the ability to photograph a honest to God dog sled go galloping past me.
Instead, I got to speak with one of the trainers, and get some photos of their lovely custom kennel/truck, and their second team of gorgeous Siberian Huskies! I don’t typically like dogs due to smell and noise… but in this case, they made noises like wolves and LOOKED like wolves. And being of House Stark, knowing that winter IS coming, this was entirely ~awesome~ in my book. I sort of wanted one. Or three. Or a team and a sled, because who can refuse a face like this:
Even the top of the kennels on the truck bed had a dog sledding ornament, the sort of DIY attention to detail which warms my (otherwise icy, cold and dead) heart:
A wonderfuly wintry and NON-hypothermic start to my morning!
Hiking up around/in the midst of Camel’s Hump Mountain
I drove over to the other side of Waterbury, and carefully made my way up the class 4 (again, unpaved and unmaintained DEATH RACE) roads to the winter parking lot. Where I found, of course, another Subaru breeding ground, with several Vermonters either coming back or preparing to hike/ski the mountain!
After a lunch of Ramen prepared on the camp stove out the back of my car, I started up the “View Trail” as it was the only trail I could see… and ended up back in the parking lot. ugh.
I went a different direction, in my microspikes (rather than my snowshoes, which was a bad idea in retrospect, as it was more than 3 foot of snow in a lot of places, not all equally compacted down), and found some kind of shorter trail meant for cross country skiers, and went off in that direction. It WAS headed up towards the peak, and it got me to… another trail, this one groomed by VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) for use by hikers, skiers, and snowmobilers alike. Again, this went up and around the peak of the mountain, but with VERY few trail markers or signs, I went with it. I continued to approach the cloud rooted atop the peak, and got some good views:
The trail kept going 1) up and 2) around the mountain, seeming like it would eventually get me to the peak or at least another trail to the peak… but instead I got to see snowmobilers go zooming past:
In retrospect, while I love my new green Carhartt raincoat, it is not especially good at things like “being seen by people operating motor vehicles on icy surfaces” – but they were all really good about slowing way down once they saw me, to the benefit of the “Mike not dying on this trip” fund:
Eventually I got high up that trail enough to reach the edge of the cloud, and it snowed intermittently onto me as the visibility dropped. Given that I was exhausted, and alone in a snowy and foggy area, and it was 2pm (with sunset forecasted to be at 5:46pm), I decided to turn around and head back to the car. A great hike with some lovely views, and while it is disappointing to not have made it to the peak of Camel’s Hump Mountain, I look forward to getting back to Vermont with other hikers and without dangerous weather, to do a lot more of the Long Trail, in the near future!
Dinner at Maxi’s. for the warmth of both the food and the locals
After the hike, it was around 4pm and I was starving to a crazy degree, so I went back to Maxi’s – where I had dined the night before, it was suggested to me by my friend Emma, and it was *delicious* the night before. But Saturday for my late lunch, they hit it out of the park: a panini from heaven, constructed with turkey, bacon, brie, apple chutney, and curry mayonnaise. And God’s blessing. And it was delicious, I only wish I had room after it (and my chicken coconut curry soup as a starter) to have tried their famous Vermont maple syrup cheesecake.
Perhaps I *have* to go back there, now.
Packing up, heading home
After dinner and the 5.5 hour hike across the wastes, I was very tired, and recognized that I really needed more time than I had billed, to do work for my job and then pack my car for my 10 days of spring break at home in Ohio this coming week. On the way, I saw an outdoor gear shop with “clearance signs” all over every surface, went in (mostly to warm myself out of the wind), and ended up getting a $75 snowshoe bag for… $23! No more worrying about snowshoe crampons tearing the upholstery in my car, or in my life!
Given the above, and having had a great time, I decided to grab the remaining sunlight to go back and tear down camp, to head home 12 hours earlier than planned.
A successful and treacherous drive up to the lower parking lot of Little River State Park saw my hike reduced to 1 mile each way, meaning I tore down camp and got back to the car in time to grab some FANTASTIC shots of the mountains in the background as the sun began to retreat:
The drive home, excited for the next trip
The trip was a roaring success, and as I drove home I reflected on how lucky I am to have gotten my fuel efficient car for such a low price, and friends like Mark and Tom who continue to help me learn how to keep it going and indeed run even better. It was just shy of $100 worth of fuel for nearly 950 miles of driving (including the 2 hours down and then 2 back up, for the observatory), which is 40mpg (including the trailer hitch shelf with firewood, AND the roof basket with shovel and axe). The cost of camping was $0, as the winter is the offseason, so I will continue to be able to squeeze in my final New England Camping Experiences, to complete the set with t New Hampshire and Rhode Island… and then, if there is time, additional trips to states already visited!
Stay tuned, and stay warm.